Limited Taxation
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Barbara's Column
April 2001 #3

No reason to panic as Swift takes over corner office
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem Evening News
Saturday, April 14, 2001

Now let's get this straight from the beginning.

It's Governor Jane Swift, and Acting Governor Tom Finneran.

Just as it was Governor Paul Cellucci, and Acting Governor Tom Finneran.

And until the voters of the commonwealth back up the governor they elect with independent legislators, that's the way it's going to be.

By the way, most of the existing Republican legislators override the governor's vetoes right along with the Democrats. It doesn't matter, either, whether the governor is in Boston, Hudson, or Williamstown: the vetoes will be overridden as long as their opponents demagogue issues like education spending and scare the legislative children.

When the primary enforcement seat belt bill recently passed the Senate, there was no roll call despite efforts by Senators Nuciforo and Glodis to get the vote on record. This is because voters who decided in 1994 to keep the seat belt law were told that it would never be primary enforcement. Most senators, both Democrat and Republican, did not have the courage to break that commitment on the record.

So, now as before, we have a governor, an acting governor, a few courageous independent legislators, and the rest of the Legislature. Governor Jane Swift can play parent by being truthful about her agenda and doing what she thinks is right: in the end, the results will usually be the same as if she were having babies instead.

In the rare instances where a governor can have an effect, she will have a better one than any of her Democrat opponents would have. By taking the "no new taxes" pledge, she will make it clear to any acting governors/legislative leaders that they need a 2/3 vote to override. This helps discourage the game in which the state spends as much as it wants, doesn't pay it's bills, then raises taxes to cover the debts and continue the spending.

Both the governor and acting governor support MCAS, so we may yet get some accountability from the billions we have spent on education in this state. What more can we really ask for until we change the legislative culture and have real legislative reform?

When I was asked by a Swift opponent how I plan to reach the governor when I need to talk with her, I mentioned the invention of the telephone. In fact, I rarely call governors or legislators, having learned my first day on the job that staff people are the ones to contact.

Governor Swift has some of the best. Chief of Staff Peter Forman was the legislator who kept filing a bill to let local voters put an "underride" as well as an "override" of Proposition 2 1/2 on the ballot. It didn't pass, but his support for taxpayers was further enhanced during his years as minority leader when he averaged a 96 percent rating with Citizens for Limited Taxation.

When I first met her Chief Secretary Abner Mason, he had just been hired as some kind of assistant on the Governor's staff and made the mistake of telling me to call him whenever I needed anything. Since then he has risen rapidly and is now a key advisor; but he has kept his word to be available whenever a taxpayer activist needs to talk with someone.

Press Secretary Jason Kauppi, once a conscientious newspaper reporter, will keep us all informed on administrative initiatives -- just as press secretaries have always done no matter where their boss happened to be when he was running for president (Dukakis), playing squash (Weld), or out of the country on trade missions (Cellucci).

Taxpayers have been very fortunate in the Weld/Cellucci/Swift choices for Secretary of Administration and Finance: Charlie Baker, Andrew Natsios and now Steve Crosby shared a commitment to fiscal responsibility. The new Crosby initiative to end the abuse of outside sections in the budget may bring about some of that needed legislative reform. If important legislation must stand alone, rather than being jammed into the spending plan, it will allow the media and though them, us, to better know what is going on.

Massport's Ginny Buckingham, legal counsel Len Lewin, and another former minority leader, Steve Pierce, are other key players and advisors who work full-time.

Governor Swift can go home and have her babies secure, with us, in the knowledge that administration grown-ups are minding the store back on Beacon Hill.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem Evening News and the Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.

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